EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Shorthanded Phoenix Suns put up great effort in loss to Lakers

Apr 7, 2023, 9:46 PM | Updated: 10:03 pm

Cameron Payne #15 of the Phoenix Suns score a basket over Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Laker...

Cameron Payne #15 of the Phoenix Suns score a basket over Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Crypto.com Arena on April 7, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns’ 121-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday had no stakes for Phoenix and it was full of them for Los Angeles.

You wouldn’t have known that in the first half especially, as this was a great all-around effort from the back-half of the Suns’ roster without the resting Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul.

The Lakers ran into the trap of thinking this game was free. There’s no comparison to what Phoenix had happen against Denver the night prior, because the Suns had nothing to play for. Los Angeles needed a win to avoid the play-in.

The Lakers’ energy suggested it was waiting to see if it was ever going to be necessary to raise it. Their defense was slow and their offense went through the motions. Anthony Davis had two separate possessions attempting to score in the post that looked like he was practicing his footwork in pregame warmups, which Bismack Biyombo used to his advantage to block both of those shots.

Even though L.A. was 10-for-18 from 3-point range in the first half, it trailed by one.

Two injuries in that half really swung the game’s momentum and will be of concern for the Suns a week out from the start of the playoffs.

Biyombo suffered a knee injury in the second quarter on a knee-to-knee collision with Davis that left him in a lot of pain. He was ruled out for the rest of the game, and after Cam Payne played through a tough fall in the first half, he didn’t return as well.

Even after those setbacks, the Suns were still showing signs of life, up six with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter. That is when Los Angeles found a bit more juice defensively and on the glass to create some separation to lead by seven heading into the final frame. Payne’s absence was catching up to the Suns, particularly with their offensive flow, having to rely on two-way guard Saben Lee to dictate that.

After Phoenix gave up 35 points in the third quarter, it scored only 18 in the fourth.

Torrey Craig (18 points), Jock Landale (17), Josh Okogie (16), Payne (13) and Terrence Ross (10) were Phoenix’s five players in double figures. Landale added 10 rebounds for a double-double, Ross dished out six assists and Craig had four blocks.

The Lakers did not need big nights from LeBron James or Davis, who combined for just 30 points. D’Angelo Russell put in a team-high 24.

Head coach Monty Williams told azcentral’s Duane Rankin the injuries for Biyombo and Payne were more of contusions, a bit of good news postgame.

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